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ND to continue using early action

Rohan Anand | Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A few days before Christmas 2005, freshman Chris Holland arrived at his Louisville home to see that his mom had posted a Notre Dame flag in his front yard. Inside was an official acceptance letter granting him admission to the University’s Class of 2010 via the Early Action program.

“I was ecstatic,” he said. “Not only because Notre Dame was my dream school, but because the whole college admissions process was finally over.”

Just as Holland’s white-knuckled months of sleepless nights ended, his current roommate, Conor Troy, discovered his Early Action application was deferred to the regular decision pool.

“I was clearly discouraged at first because Notre Dame was my first choice,” Troy said. “But I also realized it was a big application pool and I was hopeful for the regular decision results, so I focused on working hard senior year and keeping my grades up.”

Both Holland and Troy’s scenarios point to the ambiguity involved in the college-admissions process – and, more specifically, the debate sparked by Princeton University and Harvard College, two schools that just cut their early admission programs for classes entering in the fall of 2008.

With the rising competition to gain admission into highly selective universities like Notre Dame, the University’s Early Action program is not just a method to increase yield, said Son Nguyen, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

“The hype for American colleges is increasing, and people want more and want to know sooner,” Nguyen said. “But here at Notre Dame, we want our Early Action program to be a service to our students.”

Notification under Early Action gives students – whose credentials are considered in the context of a smaller application pool – a clear admissions decision early in their college application process, even if it causes unhappiness, said Assistant Provost for Admissions Dan Saracino.

“Under the Early Action program, to notify denied students before Christmas allows them more time to start focusing on other colleges,” Saracino said. “High school counselors have called us and asked for us to keep it because it really works towards students’ advantage.”

Applicants who wish to be considered under Early Action typically submit their completed application file by Nov. 1 and receive a response by mid-December about whether they were admitted, deferred to the regular decision pool or denied.

Notre Dame’s unrestrictive Early Action program differs from those of other institutions, which typically offer either a binding Early Decision agreement or Single-Choice Early Action.

While the other two choices generally prohibit students from applying early to more than one institution, Notre Dame’s program permits Early Action students to apply early to as many schools as they wish.

“With regards to Notre Dame, the Undergraduate Admissions office wants a student to apply early when they feel that their profile is at its best,” said Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Gil Martinez. “It’s the fairest and kindest method available for them.”

But it’s likely that Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees and admissions officers are taking note of the Princeton and Harvard decisions.

In a statement released on Sept. 18, Princeton President Shirley Tilghman said Princeton’s binding Early Decision program “advantages the advantaged” and a single admissions process would insure greater equality in determining each class.

As a result, colleges nationwide have found themselves scurrying to re-evaluate their systems and decide whether they should follow suit. Ivy League schools in particular – like Cornell – are under pressure to begin monitoring the pros and cons of their respective programs.

Senior Tim Chlon, who was accepted under Early Action during his senior year of high school, said the early notification and the non-binding commitment was convenient for him.

“I don’t think that Early Action benefits the advantaged anymore than anyone else, because it’s just an application, and it doesn’t require any more money to send it in earlier or later,” Chlon said. “Instead, it gives you as many options as possible.”

Martinez also said the process of Early Action doesn’t put any students at a disadvantage.

“While it’s true that upper class applicants may have more resources than lower class students, the choice is usually up to the students,” he said. “If they understand the process, they make the choice.”

Nguyen said students who can no longer apply early to other schools may look more into places like Notre Dame that retain the Early Action program.

“We like where we stand by offering our applicants a lot of flexibility compared to other schools,” he said. “Then again, for now, we’re only dealing with Harvard and Princeton, so we’ll wait to see what’s going to happen later on.”